Contrary to some popular opinions, rape can occur within the confines of a marriage. Whenever sexual consent isn’t given, but is instead forced upon someone, then this meets the definition of rape. Marital rape is one of the hidden statistics that is rarely talked about and part of the reason might be that it hasn’t always been illegal. Spousal rape wasn’t completely illegal in the United States until 1993. Even with it being illegal, prosecutors rarely bring a case of marital rape to trial.
Statistics About Spousal Rape
1. Only 2 surveys have ever been done in an attempt to determine how prevalent spousal rape is today.
2. In one randomly sampled group of married women in San Francisco, 8% of them stated that they were a survivor of marital rape.
3. A similar study that was conducted in Boston found that 10% of married women were the victims of spousal rape.
4. 30% of adult rape cases were committed by husbands, common-law partners, or boyfriends.
5. 29% of all sexual assaults of adult women were perpetrated by a husband or lover.
6. One out of every 8 adult women in the US has experienced at least one forcible rape in her lifetime.
7. 9% of all reported rapes are perpetrated by a husband or an ex-husband.
8. For women seeking relationship maintenance in some form, including counseling and other forms of assistance, up to 30% of them have reported at least one forced sexual assault by a partner.
9. When domestic violence is part of a relationship, the chances of spousal rape occurring rise by 70%.
10. In one major study, only 16% of rape victims ever notified local law enforcement about the incident.
11. Only 3.2% of the women who were raped by people they knew reported the incident to police.
12. Women from religious backgrounds are more likely to accept spousal rape because they fear being labeled a “sinner” because of a possible divorce or having a spouse that commits adultery.
13. Women with little sexual experience and/or knowledge are more likely to believe that forced sex in marriage is normal and not report it as rape.
14. More women are upset about threats to leave a marriage or to stop loving her [83%] than they are by threats of physical violence from their spouse [70%].
15. 35% of the women who are the survivor of spousal rape endured some other form of physical violence during the incident.
16. 69% of women who are raped by their spouse are raped more than one time.
17. More than half of women who have reported or spoken about being raped by their husband were forced to have anal sex.
18. About one-third of spousal rape perpetrators use objects of some form to commit their violent act.
19. 5% of women report that their husband forced their children to be part of the spousal rape incident, including engaging in sex.
20. The percentage of victims who say that their children witnessed the sexual assault: 18%.
21. Wife rape survivors are more likely to have experienced unwanted oral and anal intercourse than women who are raped by acquaintances.
For many generations, the concept of rape required it to be from a stranger or with someone whom the victim did not have an intimate relationship. The first conviction of spousal rape didn’t even occur until the late 1970’s in the United States. Until that time, most laws included an exemption that eliminated spousal rape as a possibility. Even today, it is still a popular opinion in some population demographics that submitted to sexual contact, even when it is unwanted, is part of the duty of being a “good” spouse.
Maybe some don’t see marital rape as a form of violence, but that’s exactly what it is. Although awareness of this issue is being raised and many organizations are providing supports for victims, this form of intimate partner violence is accepted far too often and is rarely reported to law enforcement officials, even when the victim feels like they have been perpetrated against. That’s why knowing these statistics and how to respond to a potentially violent situation is so important.
The Debate and Controversy Over Spousal Rape
Some might feel that spousal rape occurs because sex is being withheld from the relationship. What really seems to be happening is that the forced sexual contact is more about having force and control than it is about having sex.
This is because the most common times when spousal rape occurs is when the woman is in more control of the sexual relationship than the man. The two most common times when spousal rape occurs is just after a woman has been discharged from the hospital, often after giving birth to a child, and when the woman is feeling ill for some reason. Even when a doctor order’s a woman not to have sex, their partner is more likely to commit spousal rape as a form of taking control.
The topic of a divorce in a relationship is also the cause for an increased risk of spousal rape to occur. When a marriage is on its last legs, two-thirds of women in research samples say that they were sexually assaulted by their partner. About 1 out of every 4 incidents occurs just prior to a divorce or a separation occurring.
What is the outcome of spousal rape? In one study from 1987, women who killed their husbands were more likely to have been raped by their spouse more than 20 times. When drugs, alcohol, or a history of abuse is involved, the spousal rape incidents can last for several hours, be repeated several times, and lead to full culmination of the sexual act more often than with stranger rape.
Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator has a wedding ring that their victim put on their finger. Until the last vestiges of denial are removed by society, this veil will stay in place. Hopefully today the veil will be lifted, even if just a little bit.